Today we’re checking out another release from Shozy, the Rouge.
While 2020 has been a nightmare for many, Shozy has been a shining beacon of hope thanks to a slew of outstanding releases. The Form 1.1 and Form 1.4 are some of my favourite products of the year, especially the latter, so when I saw the Rouge was on the horizon I knew I had to give it a go. Priced similarly to the 1.4 with a three driver hybrid setup utilizing Knowles drivers and a similar design motif, there was no way this one was going to pass under my radar.
I’m glad I inquired with Lillian from Linsoul about it (thanks again Lillian!!) because the Rouge joins its Form stablemates as one of the better products I’ve heard this year (“this year” being 2020). Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
What I Hear
Tips: The tips included with the Rouge are pretty mediocre, generic tips that you get with a million other, much cheaper earphones. As such, I swapped them out right away. My recommendation is to roll with something that uses a really soft silicone, like Spinfit CP100s or JVC’s standard wide bore tips. Foamies work well too. I find the soft materials suck up some of the upper mid and lower treble energy making the overall presentation a bit smoother and more relaxed. A wide bore option also helps out with instrument layering and separation.
I was hoping the Rouge would provide a similar experience to the Form models. While the family resemblance is there, the Rouge experience is a bit more well-rounded. Starting with the low end, the Rouge extends like a boss easily taking on the rumbling opening notes of Kavinski’s “Solli”. Sub-bass notes are well represented and mid-bass calm and tight, leaving the Rouge feeling like it is going more for technical competency instead of raw power. The presentation is quick and well-controlled with good texturing and an overall mature sound to it. It handles grungy bass from The Prodigy just as well as the smooth sounds of Dillon Francis’ Latin infusion “Look At That Butt”. Metal isn’t left behind as well with the rapid double bass from Havok’s “Covering Fire” sounding killer coming from the Rouge’s lovely pink shells.
Leading into the mids the Rouge has a solid lift which keeps vocals at the forefront. The excellent clarity and coherence on hand ensures they cut through and stay prominent pretty much regardless of the track. Thanks to the somewhat tame midbass, there’s some warmth and some thickness, but for the most part it’s falls to the cooler, leaner side. The upper mid lift will lead some to say it’s shouty, but I can’t agree. That said, it can be extremely hot with tracks where that region is already quite boosted, such as on Aesop Rock’s newest album, ‘Spirit World Field Guide’. Killer album, but with headphones quite tough for me to get through unless they’ve got a very relaxed upper mid and lower treble. Sibilance is also an issue on Aes tracks and the Rouge does nothing to hide it. Timbre is decent enough with most instruments but as is often the case, I find Knowles driver to fall behind expectations. The plasticky edge some dislike from balanced armatures is present in small quantities here. While it sounds like I’m not really enjoying this region, that’s not the case at all. I find the midrange to be the Rouge’s specialty thanks to the detail, clarity, and overall coherence that makes vocal heavy tracks a joy.
The Rouge’s treble regions more or less match the upper mids’ emphasis and remain reasonably linear until after 7k where there is a gradually steady drop in emphasis. This works out fairly well in keeping the Rouge extremely detailed and sparkly, though I do feel dropping a few dB in the presence region could go a long way towards reducing ear fatigue at high volumes and over long listening sessions. At safe listening volumes and over listening sessions of a reasonable length, the presentation is pretty relaxed, though not to the extent of some other products I’ve used recently like the Cat Ear Mia. The Mia makes the Rouge sound almost bright after swapping between the two thanks to emphasis dipping significantly after 4k. General treble quality out of the Rouge is fine with plenty of speed and as noted earlier, lots of detail, I just wish notes were a hint tighter. Mild splash is present which some enjoy since it adds energy and excitement. I think it sounds sloppy and cheapens the experience, preferring something tighter and cleaner. The Rouge finds its presentation between what I find ideal and merely acceptable. Really, I wish they ditched Knowles and went with the unknown brand of drivers used in the Form 1.4
Staging qualities of the Rouge are quite good. Imaging from channel-to-channel is clean and nuanced with no vagueness off centre or otherwise. Instrument separation and track layering is also quite decent, but lacks the dynamicism and enveloping nature of products like the Form 1.4 and Brainwavz B400. The Rouge just doesn’t pull me in and surround me with music quite the same way other more layered and better separated products do. Still better than average, but short of best-in-class.
Compared To A Peer (volumes matched with Dayton iMM-6)
BQEYZ Spring 2 (169.00 USD): The Rouge is a more balanced, technical take on Shozy’s Form models to my ears with differences that are similar to the Spring II. BQEYZ’s offering is warmer and bassier. Sub-bass on the Spring II has more emphasis and mid-bass more punch. The Rouge offers more speed, texture, and better control. Heading into the mids the Rouge is leaner and gives vocals a cooler, more detailed presentation. Timbre out of the Spring II is more natural. Treble on the Spring II is smoother with more upper end sparkle vs. the Rouge which seems to focus more on the presence region. As such I find the Rouge more detailed and less sparkly. In terms of speed and cleanliness of the notes each present, the Spring II gets the nod. The sound stage of the Rouge is wider and deeper with a more evenly rounded appearance. Imaging out of the Rouge is also more nuanced with clean channel-to-channel transitions. I also find it to offer slightly better layering with similarly good instrument separation.
Overall I find the two to be more-or-less equals with each model excelling in different areas. I could pick up either and be perfectly happy, though as an all-rounder the Spring II gets the nod thanks to it’s heavier low end.
Shozy Form 1.4 (199.00 USD):When it comes to the low end, I was surprised to hear the Rouge besting the 1.4’s excellent extension and sub-bass presence. It does a great job presenting the lowest notes, although it doesn’t provide the same level of physical feedback as the 1.4. Mid-bass punch is clearly in the 1.4’s camp, inserting warmth into the overall signature that is lacking in the Rouge. Texturing is quite similar, as is overall control and note definition. While measurements show the Rouge to be the bassier of the two, it really doesn’t feel that way when actually listening to them. The more relaxed upper mids and lower treble of the 1.4 result in the perception of the low end standing out more.
The midrange is where the Rouge shines in my opinion. It is a notable step up in terms of vocal presence, clarity, and detail, and the 1.4 was no slouch in these areas. The upper mid bump really helps keep vocalists prominent in every track. I’m sure the word shouty will be tossed around by a certain few individuals, though I do not hear that quality in the Rouge. The general presentation won’t win over everyone though. Compared to the 1.4, the Rouge’s mids are leaner and cooler. Sibilance is kept in check, though the Rouge does toes the lines of acceptable on some of my more aggressive test tracks from Aesop Rock. I also found it to be a touch less timbre accurate, particularly on percussion instruments which end up having a plasticky edge to them not shared by the Form 1.4. I think the brand unknown armatures used in the Form 1.4 have a more natural and realistic presentation, even if the differences are exceptionally minimal.
Treble out of both models is quite relaxed and inoffensive to my ears. The Rouge’s improved clarity and detail can be attributed to the enhanced lower treble presence it displays. Upper treble feels pretty evenly represented with the Rouge giving off a hint more shimmer on chimes and cymbals. Attack and decay on both is similar with the Rouge coming across more aggressive and definitive. Notes sound equally tight and well-controlled. Sound stage on these earphones offers up a similar level of width and depth, but how each goes about it feels quite different. Where the Rouge’s stage is characterized by a leaner sound and more prominent vocals that the rest of the stage emanates from, the 1.4’s low end is the basis for it’s stage. The bass on that model acts like a blanket or wave that everything else seems to build on top of.
When it comes to staging qualities like imaging, layering, and separation, the Form 1.4 has got that special something the Rouge seems to lack. Imaging is similarly smooth with channel-to-channel movements and instruments are slightly better separated on the Rouge thanks to the leaner sound, but the 1.4 has got the layering advantage and ends up feeling more dynamic overall.
Overall I really, really enjoy the sound of the Rouge. It takes most of what I like about the Form series of earphones but dials down the wamrth and bass for improved detail and clarity. Vocals in particular sound amazing, just keep in mind that tracks with plenty of sibilance and a boosted upper midrange will sound quite hot and potentially uncomfortable.
In The Ear The Rouge takes design cues and sizing from the 1.4, with a similar stubby, tubby, rounded shape, and low profile, cable over-ear fitment. There are some notable physical differences though. Gone is the compact metal nozzle. Instead, the one-piece nozzle is more typical of other acrylic-shelled iems. It is fairly short with individual sound tubes for the dynamic and dual armatures. The lip for holding on tips is unfortunately not very effective given it doesn’t protrude very far, and is rounded off. No protective cover is present on the end of the nozzle either, allowing you to peer down the larger of the two tubes at the Knowles style filter within. On the rear of the Form models was a vent hole finished with a stylish metal ring. That ring is gone on the Rouge, leaving just a simple vent. The ports for the 2-pin plugs were completely flush with the housing on the Form models, but are now ever so slightly recessed on the Rouge. It looks to be just enough to offer a hint of extra protection from bending, but I’m not planning to test that deliberately. The entirety of the body of each Rouge is hand-painted giving every one a unique look. I only wish there was some variety in colour options, but I can understand why that is not the case.
The cable is kind of old school in a time where everything has gone braided or cloth-coated, or both, and is reminiscent of those used by VSonic during the VSD3-era. The metallic brown sheath isn’t sticky, but does show some memory retention and even after having been in use for over a month, retains some of the bends and curls from when it was first removed from it’s packaging. Still, I’d rather this than the noisy, fray and tangle prone cables used on the Form models. The hardware is nice too. The metal straight jack is absolutely tiny and should work fine it most any case. Strain relief is on the short side, but is plenty flexible and should offer decent protection from bends and tugs. The y-split and chin cinch are also metal. The sliding motion of the chin cinch is firm, but not so much to be a concern. Once in place, it doesn’t move so the implementation of this feature is quite positive overall.
Wearing the Rouge is a pleasant experience. The shells are extremely light. Combine that with a low profile, ergonomic shape that comfortably fills the outer ear without any pressure points or sharp edges, and you’ve got an earphone that can be worn for extended periods without any fatigue. If I were to find complaint anywhere, it would be with the short, wide nozzles. Those that prefer a deep fitting earphone may have trouble finding tips that extend deep enough, and stay attached. I ended up using Dunu tips for my testing since they sounded basically the same as the stock tips, stayed attached without issue, and provided a consistent seal. Isolation is slightly above average. With no music playing, I can still hear my surroundings but everything is dulled/muffled. With music playing, little to no additional volume is needed to compensate for outside noise.
In The Box The Rouge was not sent with retail packaging but given this models’ similarity to the Form 1.1 and 1.4, I would look at reviews of those models to get an idea of what to expect. In fact, feel free to check out my own review of the Form 1.1; https://thecontraptionist.blog/2020/05/06/shozy-form-1-1-fun-is-fun/. With the Rouge you receive the following:
- Rouge earphones
- Semi-hard carrying case
- 0.78mm 2-pin cable
- Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
I was quite surprised at this meagre accessory kit. Both Form models include three styles of higher quality tips (single flange, bi-flange, and foam) in three sizes each. The set included here are the same generic orange-cored set I’ve seen tossed in with 10 USD budget models. The case is nice though. While I prefer the more compact, angular, cloth coated model included with the Form earphones, the Rouge’s case is larger and more spacious inside with a very neat exterior texture. It is less pocketable, but better for those that want an earphone case that can also accommodate a small media player, Bluetooth adapter, and/or other extras.
Final Thoughts The Rouge is another outstanding addition to Shozy’s already kick @$$ 2020 lineup. I love that the signature is reminiscent of the Form models, but with a shift away from warmth, instead going for clarity and detail with some pretty wicked vocals. I think some would appreciate a slight reduction in upper mid and lower treble emphasis, but that can be addressed reasonably easily with mild EQ or the right tips, something you’ll want to swap out of the box because the stock tips are pretty mediocre. The rest of the accessory kit isn’t amazing either since you get very little compared to either of the Form models, including the much more affordable 1.1. At least it’s well built and very comfortable with gorgeous shells. That said, while the pink colourway is attractive I’d appreciate some options. Purple, red, blue, etc. I can understand why Shozy stuck with just the one colour option though. These beauties are hand-painted and since they went with main brand drivers (Knowles), offering additional colour schemes would likely have driven up the cost and increased overlap within their lineup.
Overall I think the Rouge is one of the better products to come out of the nightmare that was 2020 and a great option for someone looking for this type of signature. Good job Shozy.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer A massive thanks to Lillian with Linsoul Audio for arranging and providing a sample of the Rouge for review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions based on a couple months of regular use. They do not represent Shozy, Linsoul, or any other entity. At the time of writing the Rouge was retailing for 179.00 USD: https://www.linsoul.com/products/shozy-rouge-1
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Impedance: 32ohms
- Sensitivity: 113dB/mW
- Driver: 1 custom dynamic + 2 Knowles balanced armatures
Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, FiiO M3 Pro, FiiO BTR3K, Earstudio HUD100, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends